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IFJ calls for release of journalists in Somaliland

(IFJ/IFEX) - 20 August 2009 - The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has today called for the release of journalists and the end to threats, harassment, attacks and arrest of journalists in Somaliland.

"Journalists in Somaliland continue to face intolerable intimidation, including imprisonment, to prevent them from doing their work," said Gabriel Baglo, Director of the IFJ Africa Office. "This practice is meant to suppress independent reporting and proper scrutiny of public figures."

On 30 July, Fowsi Suleyman Awbindi, who works for Radio Horyaal, was arrested by police in Buro for filing "false reports". He was neither brought to court nor charged formally, but is still being detained in police custody.

On Thursday, 13 August, Somaliland police in Berbera arrested online journalist Yasin Jama Ali for publishing opinions on http://www.berberanews.com , a website that Yasin works for. The prosecutor charged Yasin Jama Ali and editor-in-chief of the website Mohamed Said Abdullahi (in absentia) for spreading "scandals against the nation". Yasin has since been kept in police custody.

According to NUSOJ sources in Somaliland, the said opinions were drawn from the general public on the upcoming elections, the misuse of resources collected from the Berbera seaport for one political party and criticism of Somaliland authorities for no action. Yasin Jama is also a stringer for Radio Horyaal, which is banned in Somaliland.

According to journalists in Hargeisa, the capital, on Monday, 17 August, four armed thugs attacked and terribly beat journalist Ali Adan Dahir in Erigabo. The police arrested the four suspects on the same day but the Governor of Erigabo freed the suspected men from the police station yesterday, 18 August.

"We express our deep concern at the deterioration of the press freedom situation in Somaliland. Outspoken journalists continue to be attacked and intimidated. Independent media houses are also chosen and pressured," said Omar Faruk Osman, NUSOJ Secretary General.

IFJ calls on Somaliland authorities to put an end to the deteriorating press freedom in this country, and to create conditions for journalists and the media to work safely in view of the forthcoming elections.
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